Christchurch has over twenty veggie friendly cafes and restaurants but only one with a 100% vegan menu. Based in St Albans, a fifteen minute walk outside of the city centre, The Origin promotes itself as somewhere people can come to relax and enjoy delicious (rather fancy) tea or coffee and a healthy, ‘pure’ meal. This means no meat, eggs, dairy, garlic or onion. Due to advertising themselves as a heathy eatery rather than using the term ‘vegan’, The Origin has previously been described as Christchurch’s secret vegan restaurant!
I went along for brunch one morning and immediately loved how open the place felt as I walked inside. Some of the seating curves around to the right, away from the bar, which offers up some great spots to get cosy with a good book and a steaming pot of tea! Everything is very white and minimalistic yet they still manage to achieve a cosy and relaxed vibe which I really enjoyed. They also offer free (decent) wifi which is a big bonus as so many places in New Zealand don’t!
They have a small breakfast menu made up of four completely house-made dishes; muesli, porridge, pancakes and scrambled tofu. For lunch, choices include a veg-packed noodle soup, a daily changing special, Asian pancake rolls and dumplings. You can view their menu here. They also have a counter filled with a fantastic selection of cakes, all beautifully presented.
I opted for the pancakes which were AMAZING! I’m not usually a fan of sweet breakfasts but I always go for scrambled tofu when I see it on a menu, so I figured I’d try something different. The muesli and porridge both sounded good but it’s something I make regularly myself, so I’m unlikely to order them. Plus, over the last nine months of travelling, my vegan pancake intake has been precisely zero!
The pancakes came out in a stack of three, loaded with fresh fruit, coconut cream, chia seeds and maple syrup. It was great to have such a variety of fruit – it balances out the pancakes, right?! The pancakes themselves were pretty unbelievable. I struggled to believe they had no eggs inside! Super fluffy and thick but also quite dense and ‘eggy’ in a way I haven’t experienced with vegan pancakes before. Safe to say these were the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten!Whilst munching on my pancakes, I got chatting with Manager Ying who was very passionate about the teas and coffees they offer. The Origin stock a range of organic Zealong tea; grown near Hamilton, Zealong is the only tea plantation in New Zealand and claims to create the ‘world’s purest tea’. This is thanks to being one of very few plantations in the world that is fully ISO22000 / HACCP certified. This means they know exactly what goes into their organic tea leaves.
I was pretty excited to hear they sold this particular tea. I’d actually planned to visit the plantation whilst in Hamilton, but we ended up running out of time. So now I had a second chance to try New Zealand’s only home grown tea! There were a few different types on offer, including an unusual ‘Fire and Ice’ tea which features both ginger and peppermint. Apparently it starts with the fiery ginger and ends with cooling peppermint. Although it definitely sounded interesting, it wasn’t my cup of tea (literally) so I went for Aromatic Oolong instead!
If you think making tea here involves pouring hot water on to a teabag, you are much mistaken. The bar looks more like a science lab and I was instantly drawn to investigate. They make the tea (and some of the coffees) using a ‘steampunk’ brewing machine. A very precise 30g of loose tea is poured into a glass cylinder which fills up with warm water to a specific temperature. The leaves are then blasted 4-5 times with much hotter water. This turns the tea leaves and draws the flavour out. Everything is remotely controlled from a fancy tablet which has been adjusted to create the perfect cuppa. The guys from the Zealong plantation actually came down and spent the day with the staff at The Origin to ensure the settings (and therefore the tea!) were just right. It’s then served up in a fancy glass teapot that kind of reminded me of a honeypot.
So, was all the extra work worth it?? Absolutely. The tea tasted so fresh and pure and was full of floral flavour, with no hint of a bitter aftertaste. As a treat, it’s definitely worth the $9 price tag. I’d already had a coffee earlier in the morning, so I never tried any of the coffees here. As well as using their fancy brewing machines, The Origin source high quality 90+ single origin beans from around the world and micro roast them to create unique blends. I’d be very interested in seeing how different it tastes to the bog standard latte I usually order…
On my way out, I grabbed a chocolate brownie slice to take away as they were too beautiful to say no to. It went down extremely well with non-vegan, chocolate addict Gary.. so I guess that says something!
I’d definitely recommend a visit to The Origin – it was one of my favourite places so far of my travels to get some work done. Strong, free wifi, delicious food, unique tea and super friendly staff. What more could you want!? Plus, being 100% vegan definitely gets them a big thumbs up from me 🙂